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Iowa governor calls special session to restrict abortion

 Iowa's 2023 legislative session ended Thursday, May 4.
Madeleine C King
Iowa's 2023 legislative session ended Thursday, May 4.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is asking lawmakers to return to Des Moines for a special legislative session beginning July 11 to restrict abortion.

In her announcement Wednesday, Reynolds did not specify what abortion law the Republican-majority legislature will pass when they convene.

The special session is scheduled to begin less than a month after the Iowa Supreme Court deadlocked 3-3 on Reynolds’ request to reinstate the “fetal heartbeat” law she signed in 2018. That law never took effect. Last month’s Iowa Supreme Court decision kept abortion legal in Iowa until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“This lack of action disregards the will of Iowa voters and lawmakers who will not rest until the unborn are protected by law,” Reynolds said in a statement Wednesday.

She said the sole purpose of the special session will be to restrict abortion.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said the majority of Iowanssupport reproductive freedom, and Democrats will fight to protect that.

“Everyone deserves the right to make their own health care decisions, especially when it comes to reproductive care and abortion,” Konfrst said. “Politicians and judges have no place interfering in someone else’s decisions about when to start a family.”

Spokespersons for Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver declined to comment Wednesday.

Last month, Grassley and Whitver said they would work to restrict abortion following the Iowa Supreme Court's inaction.

Republican leaders did not advance any new abortion restrictions during the regular legislative session that started in January and ended in May. They said they were waiting for the Iowa Supreme Court decision.

A group of House Republicans introduced a bill to ban all abortions, but it did not get a single hearing.

Reynolds haspreviously declined to saywhat kind of abortion law she would support if the courts gave her free rein to ban abortion. Last month's Iowa Supreme Court decision did not establish a new legal standard for reviewing abortion laws in the state.

Any new abortion restrictions will likely be challenged and end up before the Iowa Supreme Court.

One of the seven justices recused herself from the latest abortion decision because of a conflict of interest. But if all seven justices participate in the next abortion decision, they could decide if abortion rights should get some protection in the state or no protection.

This story was updated Wednesday, July 5, at 5:40 p.m.

Copyright 2023 Iowa Public Radio. To see more, visit Iowa Public Radio.

Katarina Sostaric is an Iowa City based reporter covering Eastern Iowa for Iowa Public Radio.